The title of commander was used in the medieval military orders, such as the Knights Hospitaller, for a member senior to a knight. The title of knight commander is often used to denote an even higher rank. These conventions are also used by most of the continental orders of chivalry.
In many orders of knighthood, Commander is a high rank, usually above Officier (i.e. Officer), but under one or more ranks with a prefix meaning "Great", e.g. Groot- in Dutch, Grand - in French, which may include Grootcommandeur (Grand Commander; equivalent to Knight), the equivalent of Commendador-mayor (using an equivalent suffix) in Spanish. The United Kingdom uses different classifications.
In German, Komtur (derived from Latin: commendator) was a rank within military orders, especially the Teutonic Knights. In the State of the Teutonic Order, the Komtur was the commander of a basic administrative division called Kommende (also Komturei). A Komtur was responsible for feeding and supporting the Order's Knights from the yield of local estates. He commanded several Procurators. A Kommende had a convent of at least 12 brothers. Various Kommenden formed a Ballei province.
Grosskomtur (Großkomtur or Grand Commander) was one of the highest ranks within the Knights responsible for the administration of the Order and second-in-command after the Grand Master. He had his seat at Malbork Castle (Marienburg). Grosskomtur and four other senior officers like the Grand Marshal were appointed by the Grand Master and formed the council of Großgebietiger with competence on the whole order.
In most of the British Orders of Knighthood, the grade of knight (or dame) commander is the lowest grade of knighthood, but is above the grade of companion (which does not carry a knighthood). In the Royal Victorian Order and the Order of the British Empire, the grade of commander is senior to the grade of lieutenant or officer respectively, but junior to that of knight or dame commander. In the British Order of St John, a commander ranks below a knight. (However, knights of the Order of St John are not called "Sir".)
In military orders with extensive territorial possessions, individual estates could be called commenda and enthrusted to an individual knight, as a de facto fief. Apart from cases where such a fief was ex officio linked to a higher office within the order, his style would then be Commandeur; this etymology is best preserved in the Spanish form Commendador, important in the military orders involved in the Reconquista such as the Order of Santiago.
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